Holiday Sneer

Having spent ages working retail and having a pretty nonexistent family holiday season for the last few decades, I am not a big holiday person. The lights are great, and the kitschy pop culture and fun records of the holiday are also amusing. But, in general, I wish the holiday season was a time of comfort and joy. I am one of those who sneer at the gross excess, annoying car commercials, and the irritating antics of hardcore fundamentalists.

Maybe it is because, as a kid, my parents never overdid it for the holidays. We always had a few gifts, mostly a combination of fun and practical. I was taught to spend the season helping the little guy, those in need, alone or down on their luck.

Twelve years of Catholic school didn’t do much to help either. They rammed Christmas down your throat. It was mass after mass after mass. Having said that, it is nice to hear a proper pipe organ with a good choir.

Overall, the holidays are a bourgeois construct. People lose their damn minds trying to buy stuff. I remember Christmases of the past when there was a clamor for Cabbage Patch Kids, Atari Pac-Man, and hot wheels cars. I must have missed the memo because I wanted other stuff.

Anyway, all I really want for the holidays is for the cadre of idiots out there to put a damn mask on so we can get us over all of this. I also am looking forward to chilling out, watching movies, and maybe having a drink or two. Not too fussy, no oversaturation of consumerism.

I have nothing against the well to do. They can buy all the crappy stuff they want. I just want them to shop at a local business. They can spend till their heart is content, as long as they don’t bother me with it.

Since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve been trying to learn more about artists, authors, and bands that have interested me. For various reasons, I have not had the time to learn about them. But with more time at home, I have been able to delve deeper.

I have always been fascinated with the photography of Don McCullin. His work explores the gritty of urban life, champions the downtrodden, and brings the horrors of war to life.

While his photo sessions with The Beatles are amazing, he is best known for his work in the warzones of Vietnam, Syria, and Northern Ireland, where, as a photojournalist, he brought the horrors of ar to the public consciousness.

amazing as well. He also did some photography of the beats, and his travel photographer is pretty amazing as well. His work has a stark beauty to it. It’s not pretty all the time, but it is provocative.

In exciting household news, the air ducts are cleaned. I had not thought about getting it done for a few years but then I saw a thing on TV and decided it ould not be a bad idea. Fortunately, when they came to clean the ducts they were not in bad shape. There were no dead animals, no massive clumps of yuck, and Osteen-like wads of cash. Since the cleaning, the air has been much better inside the crib.

There also is a new showerhead. The old one was kind of limited and dull, this one changes settings and is removable. It’s pretty nice. With the world being so nutty right now, having an amazingly comfortable shower can go a long way.

I picked up 4K Criterion remaster of Citizen Kane. I got that one because the regular blu ray copies had issues with the first disc and you had to send it back and wait for a new one. It was a hassle.

It looks incredible. I didn’t think that much more could be said on the subject of the film, but that is not the case. There is a ton of extra stuff, including The Hearts of Age, a silent film made by Welles in 1934.

Zhang Yimou is one of my favorite filmmakers. His film work includes Shanghai Triad, Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, House of Flying Daggers, To Live, and so many more. He also directed the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

In addition to being a great storyteller, his use of rich colors makes his movies a sumptuous visual treat. Frequently writing about events in Chinese history, his films focus on the tenacity of everyday Chinese citizens in the face of adversity.

His new film, One Second, was pulled right before a planned screening at the Berlin Film Festival. Fortunately, it was picked up by the St. Louis International Film Festival. Screening only once, I was anxious to see it on a big screen.

One Second is a love letter to film and the power it has to bring communities together, and document important events. Superbly acted, the film is about a man who escapes from prison during Mao’s Cultural Revolution to get a glimpse of his daughter who is appearing in a film screening that is screening in a small town. While it lacks the action and tense drama of his more recent work, One Second has some wonderful comedic moments weaved into its nostalgic narrative.

in addition to making the film festival circuit, the film has gotten picked up by a distributor. I have no idea when it is coming out. Most likely in 2022.

Another film I saw at the festival this year was Memoria. An award winner at the Cannes and Chicago Film Festival, it is coming out in the next week or so nationally. Its distribution is pretty weird. Neon picked up the distribution rights for the United States and they are planning for it to be a “never Ending” release in that it will be shown on one theater screen at a time, week by week, across the country.

Memoria is the Colombian entry for this year’s best foreign film Oscar. A hybrid of drama, fantasy, and science fiction, the film was written by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul whose Uncle Boomee Who Can Recall His Past Lives was terrific.

Here he has Tilda Swinton starring as a woman visiting Bogota because her sister is in the hospital. While there she is awakened in the night by a strange banging noise. At first, she thinks it is a sleep-related issue or some other ailment. However, after hearing the sound in a variety of places, including a restaurant, she begins to investigate.Being the only one to hear this particular sound disturbs her greatly as she seeks help from various people, including a sound engineer and a man living alone in the countryside.

Despite having outstanding sound mixing and incredible cinematography, the film moves at an achingly slow pace. A lot of film reviewers loved it, but, despite being imaginative and having an unexpected crescendo near the end, the film is drawn out, and crawls to a halt several times.

Swinton is terrific in the film, but audiences who miss a second of things often do not know what is going on. If you blink or miss a patch of dialogue you are lost.

There comes a time when you see a film and want it to be great art, but often are left staring at the canvas and wondering what the images mean. This is interesting, and the theater of the mind is always wonderful, but, here it doesn’t work. I also think the rollout for the movie is pretentious and kind of annoying.

The interesting thing about the current Spider Man film, and its predecessors, is that no matter who is cast in the lead role, they can dodo whatever a spider can

Beach House has a new album coming out early next year. It is called Once Twice Melody and it may be the record that gets them over.

Coming in with eighteen tracks, the band has spent the last three years diligently working on it.

The Umbrellas are an indie band from San Francisco. Their self-titled album was oneof my faovrites for the year. They have a very jangly ’80s vibe going on with a pinch of mid 1990s sugar pop thrown in for measure.

The entire album is filled with terrific melodies and clever hooks. It is a wonderfuk work of indie pop. Not too polished, not too grimy.

Billy Idol has made a Chritmas album. We are doomed. Although it has some nice hooks, it does fall flat.

Even in my youth, I knew there was a lot more to the Rankin/Bass holiday specials than was being let on. While they were made as fun entertainment, nearly all of them have some sort of bullying, stereotyping, and emotional abuse happening. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has the protagonist ostracized for a physical deformity. He is bullied, laughed at, and told he is not worthwhile. Meanwhile, Hermie the Elf is relentlessly taunted and mocked for his life choices.

Then there is Yukon Cornelius. While he seems endearing, he is a pretty greedy guy, driven by a hunt for treasure. He is more accepting than others, but his selfish nature often results in poor decisions. As for Santa, he’s a real piece of work. A blustering autocrat who does not tolerate abnormalities or work delays, he has no interest in Rudolph until he suits his own needs. What a jerk.

The Island of Misfit Toys is pure segregation that implies that if you are not what society thinks of as normal then you should be cast away. Not a wholesome message.

The Year Without A Santa Claus features Santa as kind of a wishy-washy jerk who wants to stay home. He claims to have a bad cold that makes him want to stay home. However, I find it hard to believe that a guy who has made that trip like two million times has never had a cold before. I think he is just burnt out.

That particular special implies that Mrs. Claus is incapable of solving any problems on her own. Well, she proves them all wrong. She is strong-willed, independent, and smarter than her husband. As for the Mizer Brothers, despite their impressive dance numbers, they are reticent fascists who rule their fiefdoms. Depicted as funny, they are uncompromising tyrants.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town is a little better. Here Santa is a noncormmist and a rebel who fights the machinations of authoritarians by being kind. Panfully optimistic, the Santa depicted here uses gifts to gain influence and escape form tight situations. While it is clever and teaches kids that they can share, thsi behavior also implies that people can be bought.

Overall, I think the Rankin/Bass stop motion specials remain entertaining in that they use siniging storytelling to convey the spirit of Christmas. However, they also feature some tewrrible character traits that are not healthy.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town is a little better. Here Santa is a nonconformist and a rebel who fights the machinations of authoritarians by being kind. Painfully optimistic, the Santa depicted here uses gifts to gain influence and escape tight situations. While it is clever and teaches kids that they can share, this behavior also implies that people can be bought.

Overall, I think the Rankin/Bass stop motion specials remain entertaining in that they use singing and storytelling to convey the spirit of Christmas. However, they also feature some terrible character traits that are not healthy.

It is interesting that as you get older you just care less and less about the holidays. I think this feeling runs deeper if you’ve worked with the public during the season. they can be stupid, terrible, selfish, and stupid. But, all of that experience makes you more determined and tenacious in the face of adversity.

Unfortunately, working in retail also wears you down and makes you cynical. It also opens your eyes to how important it is to move away from the materialism of the season. I also think it helps you become more aware of others by underscoring the importance of kindness during the holidays.

Personally, there is something awful about coming into a store five minutes before it closes so that the staff has to undo a bunch of stuff they’ve started working on to close out the day. It’s just rude. Learn some time management people!

Also, people who come to the theater late are annoying.

I’ve been seeing a few plays over the last month. It is great to see live theater again. It also is heartening that the local companies get it by taking precautions for their audiences. Masks are mandatory and they are checking to make sure folks are vaccinated.

The holidays have brought a lull in freelance work. It should pick back up again in early 2022. But, I am glad to have the break. I can catch up on reading and seeing movies. There is also a bunch of streaming stuff I want to see.

Although I am doing a few things out in the world, I am still masking up and being socially distant. The recent surge has made being alert more important than ever. It is still important to not let down your guard.

Man I hope 2022 is better. My fear is that it will turn out to be 2020-two. I hope I am wrong. Either way, I am looking forward to better things, including more kindness from a cruel world.